Rodney Redux: The Really Green Challenger of 2000

By Liz Haigney-Lynch

Rodney Redux is an occasional series that explores Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's career and family history as a member one of New Jersey's oldest political dynasties. 

image616607.jpgOn one level, it was reality TV, pure and simple. “Ficus for Congress” was an installment of activist/documentarian Michael Moore’s TV series “The Awful Truth,” which ran 1999-2000 on the Bravo cable network. In his episode of June 21, 2000, Moore detailed his efforts to run a ficus plant in the NJ-11 primary against the unopposed incumbent, one Rodney Frelinghuysen.

But “Ficus for Congress” was also the kind of episodic political theater Moore perfected in documentaries such as "Roger & Me." This time, his target was the fog of complacency and apathy resulting from “safe” congressional districts, when elections, particularly primaries, become foregone conclusions and participation feels meaningless. With the potted ficus plant, Moore hit upon a perfect metaphor for the numbing effect of safe seats. A utilitarian, unremarkable décor placeholder – what could be better?

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The Rodney Report: Frelinghuysen's Devastating Flip on Health Care

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's Weekly Analysis of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's Words and Deeds.

  • Pre-existing Conditions and High Risk Pools
  • Medicaid Cuts in New Jersey, Ending Special Assistance in Schools
  • Employer-based Plans: Lifetime Caps & Inequity
  • Kick the Can
  • Rodney & The Omnibus BillFrelinghuysenMonopoly--PamWye-2.jpg
  • The Week According to Rodney

 

Rep. Frelinghuysen voted “yes” on the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) last week, a drastic about-face from his public statements on an earlier version of the bill — and a violation of the promise he made to NJ 11th members during an in-person meeting in his DC office, which was captured on video. In a statement released after the vote, Frelinghuysen assured the public that his previous concerns about the bill were assuaged by two amendments that, in fact, do nothing to reduce the proposed $880 billion Medicaid cuts and little to protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Pre-existing Conditions and High Risk Pools

In a misleading statement on his website, Frelinghuysen claims that under the new bill, insurance companies cannot deny anyone coverage based on pre-existing conditions or use health status to set premiums, “Unless your state asks for and receives a waiver—a condition of which is the state having other protections in place for those with pre-existing conditions..As long as you've been continuously covered, you can't be charged more money,'' Frelinghuysen explained.

This is not exactly the case. The AHCA, as amended, enables states that obtain a waiver to construct a second pool of enrollees who had a gap in coverage, separating the healthy from the sick, and creating high-risk pools. While the amendment offers these states an additional $8 billion in federal funds through 2022, raising the total amount available for high risk pools to $138 billion, the Center for American Progress estimates that these pools are woefully underfunded. They would actually need another $200 billion to properly fund coverage for high-risk patients.

More than half of all Americans of all ages and three quarters over the age of 45 have pre-existing conditions. While there is not a specific AHCA list of pre-existing conditions, insurers would have leeway to raise premiums for a multitude of illnesses, which was banned under Obamacare (the American Healthcare Act). Before the ACA, insurance companies could deny coverage or charge higher rates for anything listed as a pre-existing condition. The lists were voluminous, including relatively minor ailments like acne, acid reflux and eczema, along with many traumas, terminal diseases and mental disorders.

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The Rodney Report: Votes vs. Rhetoric

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Representative Frelinghuysen’s Weekly E-newsletter 

  • The Push to War
  • Honored for 'Advocacy' of Latinos
  • STEM Education and the 2018 Budget
  • AHCA Silence and Conference CallsUnknown.jpeg

 

Controversy raged last week over the impending House vote on Trumpcare redux, but Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s newsletter avoided the subject entirely. Instead, he patted himself on the back for the successful passage of House Joint Resolution 99 to extend funding for federal agencies and programs until May 5. He also blamed Obama for Iranian nuclear proliferation and voiced his passionate support for STEM education — despite ominous signs he might approve budget cuts that would hobble scientific research and eliminate some of the very same STEM programs he applauds. In other news, Frelinghuysen proudly received an award from the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, which seemed untroubled by his paltry advocacy record and votes against immigrants over the years.

The Push to War

In his Friday E-News item titled "Obama Administration Concessions = Iranian Belligerence,''  Frelinghuysen castigates Obama for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He pointed to a recent Politico story, which cited federal investigators and prosecutors who angry at the administration for underplaying the threat posed by prisoners released to Iran. They believe the White House undermined both years spent pursuing Iranian arms dealers and their National Counter-proliferation Initiative. However, two years on, the non-partisan Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation believes that “this good deal is significantly better than the bad alternatives.”

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Stand Up for the People of Your District

Several D.C. political sources are reporting today that Speaker Paul Ryan threatened Rep. Frelinghuysen with the loss of his powerful Appropriations Chairmanship unless he flips his opposition to the AHCA and instead supports it. If the Congressman truly represents his constituents, he must face down Ryan’s threat and continue to oppose Trumpcare, which would be disastrous for New Jersey and the country.

This amended AHCA bill, endorsed by the conservative Freedom Caucus Republicans, is even worse than the late March effort that Frelinghuysen called "unacceptable." By allowing states to acquire waivers on core provisions of the current law, it essentially removes the most crucial and popular protections. 

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